Despite recent advances in the treatment of medulloblastoma, patients in high-risk categories still face very poor outcomes. Evidence indicates that a subpopulation of cancer stem cells contributes to therapy resistance and tumour relapse in these patients. To prevent resistance and relapse, the development of treatment strategies tailored to target subgroup specific signalling circuits in high-risk medulloblastomas might be similarly important as targeting the cancer stem cell population. We have previously demonstrated potent antineoplastic effects for the PI3Kα selective inhibitor alpelisib in medulloblastoma. Here, we performed studies aimed to enhance the anti-medulloblastoma effects of alpelisib by simultaneous catalytic targeting of the mTOR kinase. Pharmacological mTOR inhibition potently enhanced the suppressive effects of alpelisib on cancer cell proliferation, colony formation and apoptosis and additionally blocked sphere-forming ability of medulloblastoma stem-like cancer cells in vitro. We identified the HH effector GLI1 as a target for dual PI3Kα and mTOR inhibition in SHH-type medulloblastoma and confirmed these results in HH-driven Ewing sarcoma cells. Importantly, pharmacologic mTOR inhibition greatly enhanced the inhibitory effects of alpelisib on medulloblastoma tumour growth in vivo. In summary, these findings highlight a key role for PI3K/mTOR signalling in GLI1 regulation in HH-driven cancers and suggest that combined PI3Kα/mTOR inhibition may be particularly interesting for the development of effective treatment strategies in high-risk medulloblastomas.
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